Law Enforcement, Faith, and Civil Rights Leaders Support Landmark Federal Challenge to Arizona Anti-Immigrant Law
Bishop, Police Chief, Congressman, and Civil Rights Advocates File Friend-of-the-Court Briefs in Support of Department of Justice Challenge to Arizona Racial Profiling Law
LOS ANGELES — Calling it "an affront to basic rights," law enforcement, civil rights, faith leaders and a Congressman decried Arizona's SB 1070 and urged the Supreme Court to maintain a lower court's order blocking the law's most pernicious elements from going into effect. SB 1070, which the Arizona legislature passed in April 2010, was, at the time, considered the most draconian anti-immigrant legislation in the country. The individuals who participated in the call explained why they or their organizations chose to make the Supreme Court aware of their opposition to SB 1070 by filing friend-of-the-court briefs.
"These laws may inhibit the Church's ability to be the Church — to care for people, to provide them solace," said Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, who spoke on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. "Many of these laws put that very essential and positive work of not just the Catholic Church, but also other faith communities, at risk. For that reason, we are extremely concerned about this very imprudent and impractical trend in state legislation, and support the case against SB 1070."
After the U.S. Department of Justice challenged SB 1070 in court and won an injunction, Arizona appealed the lower court's decision. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the landmark case on April 25. Although the case before the Supreme Court focuses on Arizona's law, communities across the country will feel the effects of the Court's decision: cases in Utah, Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama regarding Arizona-inspired legislation have been put on hold pending the Supreme Court's ruling in U.S. v. Arizona.
"Police departments have a main priority of reducing crime and making communities safe," said Jack Harris, former chief of police of Phoenix, Arizona. "The problem with laws like SB 1070, and the reason so many law enforcement officers oppose it, is because it diverts limited resources away from serious crime fighting."
More than 350 individuals and organizations from myriad sectors of society filed friend-of-the court briefs expressing support for the Department of Justice's opposition to Arizona's law, which, if allowed to go into effect, would mandate that law enforcement officials ask for proof of immigration status if they "reasonably suspect" that a person lacks proper authorization to live in the country. Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, pointed to the discriminatory aspect of SB 1070, which could force people who have been American citizens all their lives to be subject to racial profiling.
Said Browne Dianis, "Racial profiling against African Americans, immigrants, and others is wrong and illegal. It undermines the principle that we are all equal under the law. If the Supreme Court validates 1070, it will open the floodgates for other states to take such action."
Other notable individuals and organizations that express opposition to SB 1070 include former U.S. Department of State officials, who explain that laws such as SB 1070 interfere with the United States' ability to engage in foreign policy, as well as former commissioners of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (the former agency whose functions are now performed by subdivisions of the Department of Homeland Security), who argue that SB 1070 interferes with the federal government's own immigration policy priorities.
"We can turn back the tide on laws that specifically target immigrants for harassment and also end up harming so many others," said Congressman Luis Gutierrez. "We can set a tone for the future where the tone of someone's face or the dust on their work boots doesn't make them a target."
Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said, "Our country's greatness is derived from its diversity. No law should force those of us who look or sound 'foreign' to be subject to racial profiling or other discrimination. Unfortunately, Arizonans' basic rights will be at risk if SB 1070 is allowed to go into effect, and the ramifications of this decision will be felt across the country. We hope that the Supreme Court will protect basic liberty and justice for all, and strike this ill-conceived law from Arizona's books."
For more information about U.S. v Arizona, please visit www.nilc.org/sb1070usvaz.html.
More information about the friend-of-the-court briefs can be found at www.nilc.org/USvAZamici.html.
A recording of the telephonic news conference is available at www.nilc.org/document.html?id=655.
A news release issued by Congressman Gutierrez in conjunction with this press conference is available here.